With the remainder of the winter months promising to bring more cold weather, homeowners may find problems on their property.

With the remainder of the winter months promising to bring more cold weather, homeowners may find problems on their property.

Colder weather presents potential risks in home maintenance, especially without proper precaution. Homeowners may find themselves with a broken furnace or frozen pipeline. A few steps can be taken to prevent setbacks.

Check the furnace. The accumulated dust and dirt that finds its way near and into a household furnace can pose mechanical problems with the furnace and can also be a potential fire hazard.

While some cleaning can be done by an individual, Mark Reese with Jim’s Plumbing & Heating recommends getting a professional evaluation.

“Those older furnaces can cause a myriad of issues, and not just safety wise,” Reese said, adding this includes permanent damage.

Reese recommends an inspection based on the furnace’s age — every three years for furnaces less than 10 years of age, and annually for any furnace older than 10 years. A professional inspection can cost around $70, with a furnace replacement costing upwards of $2,000.

Reese also recommends an annual filter replacement, and to leave the cleaning to a professional.

Clean, inspect the fireplace or chimney. Like a household furnace, dirt and dust can accumulate in a chimney. And while a firewood chimney may not run the risk of a mechanical failure, the presence of old soot and dirt can present a serious fire hazard.

General maintenance can be done on the fireplace using a hand vacuum or a wire brush to sweep and scrub residue. But John Ingalls, owner of Chimney and Stone Specialists in McPherson, recommends hiring a specialist annually for cleaning and inspection.

An inspection and sweep costs about $179, with discounts often offered during the summer months.

Ingalls also recommends insuring that any hired technician is CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified.

Lower the thermostat. The National Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat at around 68 degrees while awake, and setting it five or 10 degrees lower while asleep or out of the house. Doing so could save between five and 15 percent per heating bill.

Also, putting on extra layers of clothing while in the house instead of turning up the thermostat could help save energy and 10 to 15 percent on winter heating bills.

Prevent plumbing freezes. Check for any leaks in pipes during the winter season. With colder weather, those leaks can freeze, causing bigger cracks in the piping.

Bret Reynolds, building inspector for the city of McPherson, also recommends insulating pipes against cold weather. During extreme cases, Reynolds says trickling the water can help prevent freezing.

For outdoor sources, make sure all hoses are free of standing water and put away for the season.

Outdoor precautions. Empty the gas from any outdoor devices, such as lawnmowers, to insure that the gas doesn’t freeze during the colder months and cause permanent damage to the tank.

Insure gutters are free of any debris — it’s a lot easier to clean when it’s not frozen to the pipe.

Ensure that the flow of water in your gutter system is free of blockage. When snow starts to melt, it may cause damage to roofing and shingles if the flow of water in gutters isn’t clear.